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Kenyas hostage politics.

Story by LUCY ORIANG’
Publication Date: 3/28/2008
THE HONEYMOON IS OVER. Even considering that theirs was an arranged marriage cobbled together under intense pressure, it has come rather too soon for the grand coalition.The Party of National Unity and the Orange Democratic Movement appear to be tied in unholy matrimony at the moment, and the Cabinet crisis raises serious concerns over whether they will come unstuck even before the party proper begins. 

Their first attempt at a rainbow union broke up at the getting-to-know-the-real-you stage. Will this one survive the tug-of-war over the spoils of war?

The cynics among us are snapping their fingers. We told you so, they remark with glee. It was always an unlikely match. Despite the smiles and polite words, the tensions are so high that you could cut them with a knife. It cannot last, they rub it in. No one is laughing. 

Here we are, with thousands of internally displaced people,  desperate for a place to call home. The rains are on and they cannot even begin to think of planting, let alone the harvest. Their lives are in suspense, the future hinged on an agreeable outcome from the power-sharing negotiations. 

The ones who have a roof over their heads are just as agitated, the tensions this time focused on the make-up of the government. We are loudly debating the size of the Cabinet, what it is going to cost us, who is going to be in it, and why.

Plus the biggie: who’s going to be in charge of what and who has the truly powerful ones – portfolio balance, in Kofi Annan parlance.

We are told that not all ministries, and presumably ministers, are equal. Yet the cost to the taxpayer is not graduated to reflect this, and the experts are telling us that a Cabinet of 44 will cost us a cool Sh100 billion a year. 

No one has calculated the going rate for 38 and 34 ministers yet, and we have not counted the multitude of idle assistant ministers who are bound to follow.

And permanent secretaries, and bodyguards, and drivers and responsibility allowances – and the huge pensions the politicians are guaranteed even when they serve for only one term.

There is no break for the long-suffering people of Kenya. Are we expected to live through one political fight after another for the next five years – and this after the dirtiest campaigns and elections in our history? 

On the face of it, this latest bone of contention is about power – how to control it, how to cultivate it and how to keep it, forever if possible.

There is that talk about the 2012 succession and people positioning themselves to keep it or gain it once and for all. If any of you get hurt in the process, too bad. Collateral damage is expected in war. 

IT IS THE WAY OF POLITICIANS, SOME of us may be tempted to argue, and they are expected to engage in crazy pursuits. We would do well to pay a little more attention to the power-play, though. It is the root cause of the problems that continue to dog our lives. We ignore their antics at our own peril.

If the opinion polls are an indication of what the people of Kenya want, a Cabinet of 20 or thereabouts should do the trick. Some superpowers and very rich nations have only 15, and they continue to thrive. We are playing in the third division, yet we are entertaining the idea of a government bloated beyond imagination.

The finance people are forecasting that the growth of the economy will slow down this year due to the election turmoil. Common sense suggests that a battalion of ministries will only make things worse. Someone is either out of touch with reality or they are hostage to forces that are not visible to the naked eye. 

The powers-that-be have convinced themselves that they need as many hangers-on as they can get away with. It is not about serving Kenyans; it is about pleasing their fixers. This is what happens when your politics is driven by bribery and tribal arithmetic. 

You create ministries to oversee Vision 2030. You create another for metropolitan Nairobi, whatever that means. You want an entire ministry to engage with the East African Community. You make an omelette of youth and sports and dump women and children together, as though their needs are one and the same. 

There is no shortage of imagination when you have to appease your partners in crime – sorry, friends – especially when they hold you by the throat. 

Someone should have come up with a ministry for morals and responsibility. It would devote itself to ensuring that no Kenyans would ever be refugees in their own country, which is a more worthy cause than keeping political thugs sweet.

There is a saying that you are judged by the friends you keep. If you have toxic friends who spew rubbish each time they open their mouths, you need a quick getaway plan. 

No one is your friend if they are pushing you to make decisions that can only poison your image. You are in serious trouble if you are even entertaining the thought of keeping your friends at the expense of the nation that you purport to serve. 

This is what things have eventually boiled down to: hostage politics. So, is your tribe represented in the Cabinet?

 
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About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.

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